March 17, 2006

WAX Makes Marketing Magazine


New Calgary shop is already a polished performer

The new offices of Wax are impressive: coolly elegant grey walls, floor to ceiling windows and bright, open work spaces. The look says this is an agency on the way up. And given the Calgary shop’s rapid expansion since it was started by five partners in June 2005, looks don’t lie. WAX is in the black, has 15 employees (and is looking to hire more) and a client list that includes Shaw Cablesystems, Direct Energy and Mitchell Eye Centre. Things are going so well, in fact, that a Vancouver office is in the works. It’s been a whirlwind ride, admits creative partner Joe Hospodarc. “The partnership, the new offices and getting the Shaw account all happened within just a few weeks and we’re still trying to manage our growth.” Local industry watchers were surprised last fall when BBDO, which just won the Shaw account, picked WAX to handle local work. BBDO’s Toronto president, Jack Neary, called well-known Calgary creative Trevor McConnell looking for on-the-ground help, and McConnell recommended WAX. “The people there are experienced professionals and I thought they were the best choice to help,” says McConnell, a partner in communications firm Scout.

Although the Shaw account is a plum job, it makes up less than 20% of WAX’s revenues, says Hospodarc, who believes the agency has been able to grow quickly because of the reputation of the five partners: Hospodarc, strategic partner Dan Wright, co-creative directors Keli Pollock and Trent Burton, and design director Monique Gamache. Pollock and Burton had worked for several years with Highwood Communications, while Gamache operated her own design company, Relish. Hospodarc was CD at three Calgary agencies, TBWA, Parallel Strategies (now Trigger) and Brown Communications. Wright was a partner in design firm Sasges Wright before splitting to start an ad agency. Though he brought several clients with him (including Direct Energy and Mitchell Eye Centres), he didn’t have expertise in traditional advertising, so in February 2005 he coaxed Hospodarc to join him, then added three more partners. By June, the shop was officially open for business. The partners soon decided they needed to be a full-service agency to handle clients as large as Shaw, and today WAX does everything except media buying and interactive work. WAX’s competitive edge, Hospodarc says, is the direct involvement of the partners. “We’re not going to go away, so you won’t have the agency thing of building a relationship with an account exec and then having to rebuild it with someone new.”

WAX’s ultimate plan is to be one of Calgary’s largest agencies, though Hospodarc concedes some prospective clients are unimpressed by WAX’s newness and size, which he believes explains its lack of success on several recent pitches for larger accounts. Undeterred, WAX is negotiating with an unnamed Vancouver agency to either acquire it or partner with it.

McConnell isn’t surprised by it all. “They had a combination of good luck, hard work and some money to back them, but the key is that they are all good people.”
(Marketing Magazine, March 17, 2006)